Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health Sciences and PhD in Epidemiology degree programs both prepare students for research-based careers in the field of health, but have different focuses academically. These programs also vary in degree formats and possible specializations. Here we discuss an overview of each degree program to help you decide which is right for you.
Comparing a PhD in Health Sciences to a PhD in Epidemiology
PhD in Health Sciences
PhD in Health Sciences programs are generally broad, interdisciplinary programs designed to train health professionals in research and advanced practice within health sciences. These programs are available in full- and part-time formats, as well as on-campus, online, and hybrid formats, and may take 4 to 5 years to complete. Students may be required to take around 54 to 57 credits beyond a master's degree, are usually required to complete a dissertation, and may be required to complete a practicum experience. Some programs may offer additional specialization tracks in areas like speech-language pathology, health professions leadership, or movement science, but in general students take research and core courses that may cover topics in statistics, leadership, ethics, research design, health policy, and evidence-based medical practice. Graduates of PhD in Health Sciences programs typically advance their careers in the field of health to work as researchers, allied health leaders, or educators in higher education.
PhD in Epidemiology
PhD in Epidemiology degree programs are more specific programs for public health professionals and researchers that focus on epidemiologic study and methods. These programs are typically full-time, on-campus programs that may take about 5 years to complete. Some programs require between 55 and 78 credits beyond a master's degree, and students usually have to complete comprehensive exams, teaching responsibilities, and a dissertation. Students may be able to focus their studies and/or research in areas such as cancer, infectious disease, aging, or cardiovascular disease, and coursework may include subjects in biostatistics, ethics, research design, epidemiology, human pathology, and human physiology. Graduates of PhD in Epidemiology degree programs generally work as professional epidemiologists and research scientists in the field of epidemiology.
Common Entrance Requirements
Some PhD in Health Sciences programs may be open to students with a bachelor's degree and licensure within the field of health care (such as a Registered Nurse), while others may require students to hold a master's or professional doctorate degree. PhD in Epidemiology degree programs generally require at least a bachelor's degree, but may prefer students with a background in epidemiology or a master's degree in public health or related field. Both programs may have a minimum GPA requirement and generally require the GRE, with some programs requiring specific scores to be met for admission. Typically, both doctoral programs require applicants to submit their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and/or personal statement with their application. Some PhD in Health Sciences programs may also require a writing sample, a copy of a student's healthcare license, and generally require an interview process.
Students can earn a PhD in Health Sciences or a PhD in Epidemiology in about 4 to 5 years and must complete a dissertation. Degree programs in health sciences tend to be available in more flexible formats and covers research topics in the broad field of health science, while those in epidemiology focus on epidemiological concepts.